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"If you're trying to design the right solution, you need to make certain you're addressing the right problem," says Didier Boulet, one of the leaders of the Design Thinking workshop organised at the Users Club. Parallel sessions focused on future Sophie functions, the INCAS project and the support services that customers expect from Thales.

Inspiration boards

To kick off the session, Thales presented a series of posters — inspiration boards, in Design Thinking parlance — and asked participants to react. Some boards presented current uses of Sophie, while others featured scenes from everyday life showing functions and uses with no apparent connection to our range of optronic products.

The aim was to situate Sophie with respect to some of the other products that populate our daily lives, and imagine new applications and opportunities that nobody had thought of before.

Harvesting big ideas

Participants wrote down their ideas, then split up into small groups to talk about them. Each group then chose one "big idea" that seemed more promising or more original than the others, and produced their own posters to show to the other groups. In less than four hours, each of the eight groups had pitched a new idea that could change the future of hand-held thermal imagers or the services associated with them.

Judging by the turnout at the report-back session the following day, customers found this innovative approach an excellent idea in itself. And for Thales, it was a great way to get customer insights and make sure our designers are on the same wavelength as our users. We'll be building on the experience straight away and expect to announce new functions and services as early as 2015.

What is Design Thinking?

David Kelley, a former Stanford professor who founded both the Stanford Design School and the global design consultancy Ideo, popularised design thinking as a method of creative action. Design thinking is a way of thinking about problems, but it also makes innovations more desirable to customers.

Thales, inspired by a team of visionary executives, has adopted customer-driven innovation as part of a new and radically different approach to the design of new products and services. Design Thinking now forms part of the company’s human-centred approach to problem-solving.

Traditionally, innovation focuses on solutions, rather than problems. But with Design Thinking, the innovation process really starts at the source. "It's all about understanding the problem and empathising with the end-user of the product we're going to build," says Barry Connor, Optronics Innovation & Technology Manager – the first such facility outside France.


To find out how we are promoting the Design Thinking approach with our customers, read Creativity in action in the latest issue of Innovations, the Thales Group magazine.